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Golden Nugz - 12.17.12 - Nice Hatchet Job From The Paper Of Record

Welcome to the slow week. A perfect time for me to open with nearly 1200 words on why the New York Times' recent article on Coach Kill was, to put it kindly, poorly written. And Nugz. There are some good Nugz under my rant too.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get to the Nugz I'm going to go on a little (ok, pretty huge) rant...

You may have heard, but over the weekend the New York Times published an article that used Coach Kill as the primary example of coaching behavior that won't fly in today's world. Reading the article, the very first thought was "WTF? How is Kill the lede for this?" When I saw it late on Friday night my original intention was to fisk it for all it was worth on Saturday or Sunday. But I decided that such a lazy article wasn't worth that much effort. Instead, I'm going to respond with some bullet points about why I think the author needs to utilize a little more critical thinking and journalistic skills the next time he wants to churn out a piece like this. You'll really want to read the piece (if you haven't already) in order to know what I'm talking about. Since this attempt isn't short either, it's probably a good thing I didn't go all the way down the rabbit hole over the weekend.

- First, it's important to note that I don't think the overall premise of the story (that there is behavior that used to be ok that isn't tolerated) anymore is a worthy one for discussion, especially since people seem to have such differing viewpoints on it.

- That said, Coach Kill seems like a very odd choice as the "poster child" for this debate. It seems to me that the story's writer (Tim Rohan) singled him out because he is a very recent/easy target (and perhaps because Mr. Rohan already had his own opinion of the veracity of the claims), not because any of A.J. Barker's complaints were validated.

- I think the story was a mess in terms of how it its "facts" and limited conclusions are presented. Here's what I mean by that...Coach Kill is the primary actor in the story. He gets the most column inches devoted to his alleged transgressions. This seems odd given that:

1) AJ Barker's story has not been validated by anyone at the school. In fact, the U has outright said that they do not believe anything wrong happened and that no investigation was required.

2) Several of the other coaches listed in the story were publicly witnessed performing the acts they were accused of and were publicly punished by the school. The fact that Kill's alleged behavior is given the spotlight is even more puzzling when you compare the fact that U found no wrongdoing and administered no punishment to these other examples.

3) AJ's follow up interviews with local media outlets included comments that call into question the veracity and reasoning behind his claims (this is the part my thorough fisking would have handled in excruciating detail). Specifically, that impression that receiving a scholarship would have been enough for him to stay. My guess is that Mr. Rohan is not even aware of these interviews. As I'll expand upon below, I'm going to guess that's because Mr. Rohan hasn't read anything beyond AJ's diatribe and the basic media coverage surrounding Coach Kill's response.

4) Mr. Rohan did not appear to have contacted Coach Kill for this story. The quotes he attributes to Kill were from the previous public press conference, not from an interview he did with Kill. It is quite possible that he did contact Kill and the U and was rebuffed. But then he should have taken time to note this in the story. As it happens, I think that he should also have noted the source of the quotes he did include, as people not as familiar with the story likely assume that they came from a conversation he had with Kill.

5) The majority of AJ's entire side of the story is presented unquoted, which suggests that Mr. Rohan is paraphrasing AJ's 4000 word diatribe. There is no mention of whether AJ was contacted directly.

- I think this would be a good time to note something troubling I saw reading the article. At no point are AJ's accusations about Coach Kill listed as "alleged". In fact, the only use of the word alleged (or any variation of) is in relation to the accusations about Mike Leach by Marquess Wilson. Given that no wrongdoing has been proven, I can't see how this would be acceptable under the guidelines the NYT puts in place for writing about these sorts of claims. This is a completely unacceptable lapse that falls on both Mr. Rohan and on the editors who looked the piece over.

- My next complaint is less surprising once you realize that Mr. Rohan has failed to declare any of AJ's accusations to be alleged (but should be no less troubling). The structure of the story presents a narrative that can easily lead the reader to believe that the accusations against Kill are fact, when if reality they are at best completely unproven and could also be argued as unfounded (see the U's comfort level in declining to investigate the allegations). Following several paragraphs where AJ's side of the story is presented (as well as a few non-committal quotes from the football team's sports psychotherapist) is a series of quotes from a sports psychologist (Dr. Goldberg) not connected to the U. His quotes about the uselessness (and potential harmfulness) of bullying behavior in coaching were likely meant in a general context. However, placing them right behind the portion of the story where AJ's accusations were uncritically relayed without the notation of "alleged" makes it very easy to tie the two together as part of a factual narrative against Kill. In other words, it's not hard for someone with no prior knowledge of the situation to read this and come away with the impression that Kill is a known coaching bully whose tactics harm his team when there is no evidence to support the claim. As the story continues, a short set of countering sports psychologist quotes were presented, but then it's right back to Dr. Goldberg as he talks about how coaches can uses scholarships to "emotionally blackmail" players. Oddly enough, this is exactly what AJ accused Kill of. I wonder if ending a story on that quote might lead the readers to a conclusion about Coach Kill? Hmmmm....

- The last two points are where the article fails in the most egregious manner. As I noted up top, there are a lot of valid questions that could be asked here. But they could be asked without using the unproven allegations of AJ Barker as the lede. I'd argue that Mr. Rohan created a story where he found quotes that fit his take on the AJ/Kill situation and wrote from there. That's why you see Coach Kill's story take up the bulk of the article while factually proven wrongdoing by coaches merits only an aside. It's why you never see AJ Barker's accusations noted as alleged. And it's why you see quotes from a sports psychologist that happen to dovetail perfectly with AJ's allegations used to close the article.

And that's more time than I meant to spend on such a poorly researched and written piece. I had considered calling Mr. Rohan out on Twitter for his egregious failures, but I'm guessing he doesn't care. On to the rest of the Nugz...


- Unsurprisingly, Coach Kill wasn't pleased with the hack job characterization of him in the NYT.

- 'SHEDE STAYS: In news that only seemed to surprise the national media sources, RaShede Hageman has decided to forgo the NFL draft and return to the Gophers for this senior season. Here are stories from the STrib, PiPress, ESPN1500, and WWL Blog on the subject. I for one am looking forward to what another offseason of maturation and practice will do for Shede. He is a really exciting player to watch!

- FSN looks at what the Gophers will need to do to slow the TTech passing game.

- More of the Top Ten Plays of 2012:


- ALL THE DEFENSE. I bring you 2 different stories about the Gopher defense from Amelia Rayno. First, Amelia says that defense is fun for Austin Hollins. Her second piece is a blog entry about how Andre Hollins will need to keep improving his own defense as the season progresses.

- Amelia also looks at the impact Trevor Mbakwe's intensity has on the Gophers and why it helps the team play their best.


- Gophers remain atop the WCHA Blog Power Rankings


- Guess who leads the WCHA? St. Cloud State. No this is not a typo.

- Ok, this is an awesome goal. Yes, it's a BADger. Deal and enjoy.

The Smorgasbord

- The best college team themed holiday light show I've seen. Ok, it's the only one I've seen but it's still awesome. Hats off to this Wazzu fan! Skip to the 1 minute mark if you just want to see the lights.

- Isaac Newton meets Rube Goldberg.

- If you watched the Potato Bowl this weekend you were probably traumatized by the Spud People Ads. If you missed them, well, feast your eyes (prepare your soul first).